I just performed the wedding for Steve and Jennie (names changed to protect the innocent and/or embarrassed) at the Burlington Boathouse.
The rehearsal was a pretty smooth affair with plenty of loving, friendly people and the kickiest little flower girl named Madeline – a child considerably older and wiser than her 4 years might belie.
Because the bride and groom were also on the young side (early 20s), before I left, I made a point of reminding them NOT to party too hard that night. I’ve had pasty, hung-over couples approach me at the altar before. And I can tell you that whether or not YOU think it’s obvious that your parents are holding up your rode-hard-and-put-away-wet self as you stagger down the aisle, for the rest of us, it is, shall I say, rather…apparent.
Anyway, they assured me they’d be well behaved. However, when I got to the Boathouse the next afternoon, Steve was off in a corner with his head between his knees. His team of Fellas claimed that someone must have slipped Steve a roofie the night before, as they really hadn’t had that much to drink.
I went over to Steve, who also swore up and down (or rather left and right – up and down were more than he could manage) that he hadn’t been on a pre-show bender.
Whether or not that was entirely the case, what was abundantly clear was that poor Steve was a raging bundle of nerves, and could barely sit up straight, much less pull his shaky, tuxedoed bod to his shiny, black-clad feet.
Kai, the Best Man, did a heroic job of trying to keep Steve focused, but Our Groom had the Requisite Hurl into a garbage can anyway. Actually, it was a recycling bin. Something about which the staff at the Boathouse were none too pleased.
I immediately directed Kai to go get some gum or breath mints, as there was no way I’d have Steve kissing Jennie with that particular mouth! Kai wisely managed to come back with gum and a whole bottle of Listerine, which seemed a sage and prudent choice.
As the Bridal Party and guests started arriving, Steve and I moved to the space near the altar, with Steve leaning against the railing, only making a feeble attempt at complete verticality. Conscious of issues around post-modern gender equity and personal identity, I didn’t want to tell him to Man Up, though I was sorely – sorely - tempted.
Finally, searching for some inspirational narrative that would bring Steve firmly to his feet, I said, “Look! Michael Jordan won an entire playoff game with the flu and a 105 degree fever. YOU can stand tall for six minutes and get married. Do it for Jennie.”
To his credit, Steve did – quite literally – rise to the occasion, though his vows were spoken in a barely audible whisper. To be fair, though, so were Jennie’s.
Honestly, I think they were both just terrified. And I get it. When I got married I had all kinds of questions about what being married would mean. What would it mean to my career and my identity as a woman? What kind of choices would this most important choice lock me into making for years to come? I spent several weeks before my wedding completely flipping out. So, I have a great deal of sympathy for both of them. I really do.
All those nerves, all those doubts – they’re all completely normal and natural. Though I’d encourage anyone struggling with any level of premarital jitters – or concerns of any kind – to go get help. Don’t suffer through your fears alone. Find someone to talk to – preferably a counselor or other neutral party who doesn’t have a huge agenda about the outcome of this, or any other part of your life.
It’s really ok to be scared. But you don’t have to go it alone.